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Conceptualising the role of the translator in the global circulation of literature: The case of Look Who’s Back and Jamie Bulloch’s translatorship

Conceptualiser le rôle du traducteur dans la circulation mondiale de la littérature : Le cas Look Who's Back et la traductorialité de Jamie Bulloch
Concettualizzare il ruolo del traduttore nella circolazione mondiale della letteratura : Il caso Look Who's Back e la traduttorialità di Jamie Bulloch
Peter Jonathan Freeth

Résumés

Dans l'étude de la traduction littéraire, le rôle du traducteur a souvent été comparé à celui de l'auteur. Ainsi, en particulier dans les contextes anglophones, les discussions sur le rôle du traducteur sont dominées par les questions se rapportant à l’assomption de la responsabilité éthique et du rôle de l’auteur lors d’une traduction littéraire. Cependant, en élargissant le spectre des études littéraires aux pratiques sociologiques et éditoriales, telles que la vente et l'acquisition des droits de traduction, la création de matériel paratextuel, et la promotion de la littérature traduite dans un contexte de réception culturelle ou linguistique déterminée, nous devons de même étendre notre degré de compréhension au rôle des traducteurs littéraires au sein de ces pratiques. Dans l’optique de clarifier ce sujet, cet article présente l’étude du cas Look Who's Back et le rôle joué par le traducteur Jamie Bulloch dans l’évolution du roman de l'allemand vers l'anglais, ci-après dénommé « traductorialité ». De cette manière, cet article soutient que, dans le contexte anglophone contemporain, les traducteurs littéraires servent d'agents clés dans la sélection et la circulation de la littérature étrangère vers la langue anglaise, malgré le fait qu’ils soient souvent perçus comme impuissants dans le domaine des pratiques d'édition au sens large.

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Introduction

  • 1 Roland Barthes, Image, music, text, London, Fontana, 1977, p. 142-148.
  • 2 Jacques Derrida, “Des Tours de Babel”, in John Graham (ed.), Difference in Translation, Ithaca and (...)
  • 3 Walter Benjamin. “The Translator’s Task”, in Lawrence Venuti (ed), The Translation Studies Reader, (...)
  • 4 André Lefevere, Translation, rewriting, and the manipulation of literary fame, London and New York, (...)
  • 5 Lawrence Venuti, Contra Instrumentalism: A Translation Polemic, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Pre (...)

1Within the realms of translation studies and comparative literature, discussion of the translator’s role in the movement of literary texts between languages historically falls within two paradigms. On the one hand, debates regarding the positioning of translators as authorial figures standing either alongside or in place of the original author have raged since post-structuralism challenged1, and even deconstructed2, the authority of original authors. On the other, the conceptualisation of translators as readers who provide critical interpretations of a source text has sought to differentiate the role of translator from that of the author since Benjamin3, a position which has been strengthened through the so-called “cultural turn” in translation studies and the work of scholars such as Lefevere4 and Venuti5.

  • 6 Christiane Nord, “Making the Source Text Grow: A plea against the idea of loss in translation”, in (...)
  • 7 Anthony Pym, “The Translator as Non-author, and I am Sorry about that”, in Claudia Buffagni, Beatri (...)
  • 8 Michelle Woods, “Introduction”, in Michelle Woods (ed), Authorizing Translation, London, Routledge, (...)
  • 9 Emily Apter, “Afterlife of a Discipline”, Comparative Literature, 57.3, 2005, p. 201-206 and David (...)
  • 10 See, for instance, Brian James Baer, “Translation Criticism in Newspaper Reviews: The Rise of Reada (...)
  • 11 Peter Flynn, “Author and translator”, in Yves Gambier and Luc van Doorslaer (eds), Handbook of Tran (...)

2Even in more recent scholarship, debates surrounding the role of the translator focus on their ability to take auctorial responsibility for a text. Christiane Nord, for instance, argues in favour of translators claiming an authorial presence in the target text due to their ensuring of a text’s growth and afterlife in the target language6. Conversely, scholars such as Anthony Pym, argue that translators cannot take responsibility, either ethical or pragmatic, for the translated text and so their role must be differentiated from that of the author7. Consequently, the continued debate over the role and authority of the translator has, in Michelle Woods’ words, generated “anxiety” about the translator’s “critical authority” in the world of Comparative Literature8, as seen in the work of Emily Apter or David Damrosch9. In practical terms, this anxiety over the translator’s authority may then be manifest in the omission of a translator from literary reviews10, or translators needing to produce paratextual materials to contextualise their creativity and justify their interpretation of a text11. As such, the focus remains on defining translatorship and the role of the translator in terms of authorship, with little-to-no attention paid to the other professional roles that literary translators play in the global circulation of literature.

  • 12 Timur Vermes, Er ist wieder da, Cologne, Bastei Lubbe, 2012.
  • 13 Timur Vermes, Look Who’s Back, London, MacLehose Press, 2014.

3This article, therefore, argues that the various roles played by literary translators not only constitute fertile ground for further scholarly attention, but also that the broadening of our conceptualisation of translatorship beyond questions of authorship will demonstrate the influence that individual translators can have on the global circulation of literature. To do so, this article will present a case study focussing on translator Jamie Bulloch and the various roles that he played in the movement of the German-language novel Er ist wieder da12 into English as Look Who’s Back13. In taking this specific case study, the article does not seek to provide a comprehensive taxonomy of the various roles that translators can play in the global circulation of literature, as the specific focus on one translator working between two dominant, European languages would not support such generalisations. Rather, the roles explored here serve to demonstrate the new insights that a broader conceptualisation of translatorship can bring to our understanding of how literary texts are translated into English and invite further research into the professional roles and activities undertaken by contemporary literary translators in a variety of contexts. Notably, the analysis in the body of this article will not focus on professional activities relating to the actual process of moving Er ist wieder da from German into English, that is of translation. Rather, the focus here is on the other roles that translators play in the global circulation of literature and the broadening of our understanding of translatorship to incorporate such activities.

  • 14 Robert Darnton, “What is the history of books?”, Daedalus, 111.3, 1982, p. 65-83.
  • 15 P. Ray Murray and Claire Squires, “The digital publishing communications circuit”, Book 2.0., 3.1, (...)
  • 16 John B. Thompson, Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century, Cambri (...)

4Given this article’s focus on the role of translators within broader publishing processes and practices, discussion of Bulloch’s professional activities will also be linked to work from book history and publishing studies scholars. However, rather than seeking to position the translator as a specific agent within a delineated set of practices occurring at a particular point in the publishing process, for instance as an agent within Darnton’s communication circuit14 or Ray Murray and Squires updated digital communication circuit15, this article argues that Bulloch’s role as a translator spans, and even transcends, the entire publishing life cycle. As such, the roles described throughout this article will be related to Thompson’s “publishing value chain”, which constitutes “a chain of activities in which different agents or organizations perform different roles which are all oriented towards a common goal – namely, the production, sale and distribution of this particular cultural commodity, the book”16. Doing so allows this article to examine Bulloch’s translatorship throughout the entire publishing lifecycle whilst keeping his role as the translator firmly in view.

  • 17 Jeremy Munday, “Using primary sources to produce a microhistory of translation and translators: the (...)
  • 18 Ibid., p. 64-80.
  • 19 Ibid., p. 75.

5Methodologically speaking, the approach taken within this article can be described in Jeremy Munday’s terms as a “microhistory of translation and translators” 17. This methodology draws on textual, extra-textual and primary sources to investigate “the conditions, working practices and identity of translators” and “their interaction with other participants in the translation process”18. Despite the contemporary nature of this case study (Look Who’s Back was published in 2014), this methodology is appropriate as the paper aims to investigate the various roles played by a particular translator and relate this to his position within broader contemporary literary translation practices. This aim mirrors the advantages of microhistory outlined by Munday, namely the conveying of “personal experience” and linking “the individual case study with the general socio-historical context”19.

  • 20 Ibid., p. 68.

6In terms of the source materials used here, this article is based upon textual data found within the codex of Look Who’s Back; a corpus of extratextual materials used to promote and publicise the novel in Britain accessed online or through publisher MacLehose Press; and interviews conducted with translator Jamie Bulloch; Katharina Bielenberg, the editor of Look Who’s Back and (then) associate publisher at MacLehose Press; and source text author Timur Vermes. In combining this primary and secondary data, this article can corroborate and contextualise findings between documentary evidence and the “mediated testimonies”20 provided by interview data to demonstrate the various roles played by translator Jamie Bulloch in the movement of Er ist wieder da into English as Look Who’s Back.

Bulloch’s role in the acquisition of Er ist wieder da

  • 21 John B. Thompson, op. cit., p. 16.
  • 22 Ibid., p. 19.
  • 23 For an overview of the reception of Er ist wieder da in Germany see Peter J. Freeth, “‘Germany asks (...)

7The first role played by Bulloch in the movement of Timur Vermes‘ debut novel Er ist wieder da into English came as a professional reader during what Thompson describes as the publisher’s “content acquisition” process21. Thompson defines this process as “the key function of the publisher”, which goes beyond acting “as a filter or gatekeeper” into “seeing the potential of something and helping the author bring it to fruition” 22. The original German novel was published in September 2012 and is narrated by Adolf Hitler, who has awoken in central Berlin in 2011 and seeks to continue his political career through appearances on German television where he is believed to be an impersonator who refuses to break character. As such, the novel seeks to satirise the continuing ubiquity of Hitler’s image in modern Germany and the media’s fascination with him as a figure – an approach which resulted in great commercial success but little coverage in the mainstream German media due to the controversial nature of the novel’s subject matter23. MacLehose Press acquired English-language translation rights for the novel in the British market just after its German publication, making a pre-emptive offer just before the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2012. However, despite the quick commercial success of the novel in the German-speaking world, Bielenberg noted in interview that German publisher Bastei Lübbe had been trying to sell English-language rights for the novel for around six months before MacLehose’s acquisition, indicating that the nature of the novel’s subject matter made it a potentially risky acquisition.

  • 24 Emma Rault, “Collected wisdom: how to write a good reader’s report”, New Books in German, accessed (...)
  • 25 Bielenberg noted during interview that both Bulloch and another reader were asked to give assessmen (...)

8In deciding whether Er ist wieder da would be a worthwhile acquisition for MacLehose Press, then, Bielenberg recruited translator Bulloch to perform an important task in the global circulation of literature: to critically read and assess the German novel. The creation of English-language reader reports by bilingual readers is a key step in the movement of literary texts between languages as it allows editors and publishers who may not speak the language of the original text to assess their suitability for a new market24. As such, Bulloch’s professional activities as a German to English literary translator prior to the acquisition of Er ist wieder da gave him the relevant knowledge of the Anglophone publishing field and literary market to read and assess the novel in such a way for MacLehose Press25. In the performance of this role, Bulloch felt Er ist wieder da would sell well in English given the novel’s subject matter and sense of humour, an opinion he reports having formed whilst reading the first fifty pages. Consequently, Bulloch suggested to Bielenberg that the novel would be a good acquisition for MacLehose Press. Given MacLehose reports that the English-language translation has sold over 250,000 copies, Bulloch’s assessment of the novel was well founded and so his role in the acquisition of translation rights for Look Who’s Back was not only pivotal in the novel being picked up for translation into English, but also facilitated the Anglophone success of the novel for publisher MacLehose Press and author Vermes.

  • 26 See New Books in German, “Funding for English translations”, accessed 23 April 2021, https://www.ne (...)

9In this way, expanding the notion of translatorship to include professional activities (such as the creation of reader reports) positions translators as a potential gatekeeper in the global circulation of literature, as publishers’ acquisition decisions are based, at least in part, on the personal readings and interpretations of bilingual readers such as Bulloch. In this way, the personal tastes of a bilingual reader such as Bulloch can shape the image of German-language literary output in the Anglophone world by influencing what gets translated and published in the English-speaking world. This position can further be seen in Bulloch’s activities as a British jury member for New Books in German, a programme which guarantees English-language translation funding for around 50 German-language books each year26. Given the additional cost of translating foreign-language texts over English-language acquisitions for Anglophone publishers, the New-Books-in-German juries influence the movement of German-language literature into English because they decide which books receive financial support. Thus, Bulloch can be understood as a gatekeeper both at an institutional level and at the level of individual texts such as Look Who’s Back.

  • 27 Rachel Donadio, “‘Look Who’s Back’: Germans Reflect on the Success of a Satire About Hitler”, The N (...)

10Returning to Look Who’s Back, the great commercial success of Er ist wieder da in German had resulted in a great deal of international interest in the book and so we cannot place full responsibility for the novel existing in English on Bulloch’s shoulders. However, given that no US publisher wanted to acquire English-language rights for book in that territory27, resulting in MacLehose’s parent company Quercus later picking up world-English rights to publish Bulloch’s translation globally, we must also acknowledge Bulloch’s role as a professional reader and the impact that a translator’s support for a book when compiling a reader report can have on its potential translation and global circulation.

Bulloch’s role in the marketing of Look Who’s Back

  • 28 John B. Thompson, op. cit., p. 16.
  • 29 John B. Thompson, op. cit., p. 20.
  • 30 For an account of this event, see Isabel Costello, “Review – Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes”, The (...)
  • 31 A photograph of this event was shared on the restaurant’s social media, see Hardy’s restaurant, “li (...)

11Following the completion of the translation in what Thompson describes as the “content development” phase28, which comprises the revision and “development” of manuscripts “in light of comments from editors and others”29, the next role played by Bulloch in the publication of Look Who’s Back came through his participation in marketing and promotional activities. These activities can be traced in both public appearances and digital spaces. In the case of the former, publisher MacLehose Press flew author Timur Vermes over to the UK for the launch of Look Who’s Back as his English-language and public-speaking skills meant that bringing him over to promote the novel was a deemed a worthwhile investment. These events consisted of appearances at traditional author-focussed events in bookshops, such as an event at a London branch of retailer Waterstones30, and more unique, one-off events such as a “literary dinner” event hosted at a restaurant in central London31. In both cases, Bulloch’s role as the translator primarily consisted of being a voice for the English-language text, with him and author Vermes giving a joint reading of an extract from the novel featuring a humorous exchange between Hitler and his secretary. As such, Bulloch very literally embodied the voice of the English language text by performing a reading alongside Vermes and leveraged his translatorship as a tool to promote the translation by making his presence as the translator a feature of the events. In this role, then, Bulloch’s participation in live events constitutes the public performance of his translatorship alongside that of the author, thereby positioning him as an identifiable and differentiated figure whose role in the creation of a translated text is of public interest and who can support the movement of said text between literary cultures by providing a public interface for the translation.

  • 32 Such as promoting Vermes’ appearance on BBC Radio 4, see Jamie Bulloch, “Listen to Timur Vermes…” t (...)
  • 33 See Jamie Bulloch, “Where else have…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed on 22 April 20 (...)
  • 34 See Jamie Bulloch, “Trying to keep up…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed on 22 April (...)

12In the case of the latter, that is activities in the digital space, Bulloch played a similar role as cultural mediator and public interface for the translation. For instance, Bulloch noted during interview that social media marketing was a consistent way in which he would help to market the books he translates. This primarily took place on Twitter, where he posted a variety of promotional content in support of Look Who’s Back – including details of public events to promote the novel32, asking other users to name tube stations where they have seen posters for Look Who’s Back33, and sharing a photograph of author Vermes signing copies of the novel34. While Bulloch noted during interview that his Twitter usage has decreased in recent years, he still emphasised its importance in marketing the books that he translates. This sentiment was shared by publisher MacLehose Press, with Bielenberg stating that international authors typically do not use social media in the same way as Anglophone authors and so translators who engage with social media present a way for translation-centric publishers to bridge this gap. This was the case with Vermes, the author of Look Who’s Back, as he has no authorial social media presence and emphasised during interview that developing such a platform was of little interest to him. In this way then, Bulloch’s role in marketing Look Who’s Back on social media facilitates Anglophone marketing practices in the digital space that would otherwise go unfilled were they left solely to the original author. Rather than supplanting the author, however, this role constitutes the cultural mediation of the literary text between publishing cultures where professional expectations and authorial activities differ. As such, Bulloch’s role as an interface between the German and British contexts emphasises the importance of translators as points of contact between a source text and author, and the novel’s target audience and culture in translation.

  • 35 Simone Murray, The Digital Literary Sphere: Reading, Writing, and Selling Books in the Internet Era (...)
  • 36 Twitter, “How to use TweetDeck”, Twitter help, accessed 22 April 2021, https://help.twitter.com/en/ (...)

13Furthermore, Bulloch’s desire to help market the books he translates on social media has resulted in a significant amount of interaction between him and readers. In order to manage these “interactive” and “para-social” elements of his translatorship in the digital space35, Bulloch uses the “TweetDeck” application, which allows users to “view multiple timelines” spanning several Twitter accounts or keyword searches within a single interface36. During interview, Bulloch noted that his tweet deck application has now become rather complex with approximately 50 columns, typically showing tweets relevant to search strings based upon the titles of books that he has translated. In monitoring this online activity, Bulloch is not only able to share posts by others pertaining to his books, but also responds directly to readers who share their thoughts or questions in this social media space.

  • 37 Jonathan Pay, “What’s the name…” tweet, @jonathanpay Twitter account, accessed on 22 April 2021, ht (...)
  • 38 Jamie Bulloch, “@jonathanpay Look Who’s Back” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed on 22 (...)
  • 39 Jamie Bulloch, “@jonathanpay If that went on…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed on 22 (...)
  • 40 Jonathan Pay, “@jonathanpay I suppose you’re right…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed (...)
  • 41 Jamie Bulloch, “@jonathanpay Hence my scouring…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed on (...)

14An example of this can be seen in the dialogue between Bulloch and Twitter user @jonathanpay, which begins with the latter asking, “What’s the name of the book where Hitler wakes up in 2011 Berlin”37 to which Bulloch replied, “Look Who’s Back”38. The interaction then continues to include the potential drawbacks of an audiobook that is read entirely in a German accent39, the fact that Bulloch is the translator of the novel40, and Bulloch’s explanation that his role as the translator of Look Who’s Back results in his “scouring of Twitter for any mention of it!”41. Notably, the Tweet that Bulloch first responded to here does not refer to Look Who’s Back or Timur Vermes by name, as those are the details after which the user @jonathanpay was enquiring. As such, keywords such as “Hitler” and “book” were enough for Bulloch to find and respond to this Tweet, which demonstrates the creativity used in developing the TweetDeck search strings he described during interview. Furthermore, in this example we can see how Bulloch makes his translatorship visible in this digital space by directly engaging with a potential readers and explicitly stating that this activity forms part of his translatorship in one of his replies. In doing so, Bulloch’s role as a marketer for the translation serves a centripetal function by moving potential readers closer to the novel and presenting himself as a public interface for the novel within the social media space.

Bulloch’s role in the afterlife of Look Who’s Back

  • 42 Jamie Bulloch, “Two-part dramatization…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed 22 April 20 (...)
  • 43 Jamie Bulloch, “‘Look Who’s Back’ film…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed 22 April 20 (...)
  • 44 Jamie Bulloch, “Special German edition…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed 22 April 20 (...)

15Where the previously discussed aspects of Bulloch’s translatorship are situated at the bookends of the publishing process, Bulloch also played a role in the subsequent afterlife of Look Who’s Back. The first examples of this can once again be found on Bulloch’s Twitter profile, which he used to promote other versions of Er ist wieder da and Look Who’s Back. This promotional activity spanned the BBC’s English-language radio dramatization of the novel42, the German-language film adaptation43 and a new film-tie-in edition of the original German novel44. As such, Bulloch not only played a role in ensuring that the novel continued to be discussed in English, noting during interview that the radio dramatization in particular led to increased discussion on Twitter, but also continued to serve as a cultural mediator between the original novel’s continued success and afterlife in German, and Anglophone audiences who are geographically and linguistically disconnected from this cultural context.

  • 45 Anja Sieg, “Strong start to German Christmas boosted by Hitler title”, The Bookerseller, accessed 2 (...)
  • 46 Internal documents from MacLehose Press list rights sales to 35 territories as of 2 September 2013.

16Furthermore, Bulloch’s translation facilitated the creation of further translations and adaptations of the novel in English, thereby ensuring the continued afterlife of the text in the Anglophone world. For instance, the aforementioned BBC radio version was dramatized from Bulloch’s translation, rather than from Er ist wieder da. Similarly, while translation rights for 17 territories had been sold within the original novel’s first-three months on the German market45, this number increased to at least 35 by the time Look Who’s Back was published in English46, with Bulloch noting during interview that English-language translations play an important role in opening a text up to translation into other languages that do not share a direct translational relationship with German. Indeed, given the international dominance of the English-language market within the global circulation of literature, the acquisition of translation rights into English can serve as a seal of quality for novels written in other languages. As such, Bulloch’s role in facilitating the movement of Er ist wieder da into English can be understood as contributing to the book’s wider international success. Notably, Bulloch claimed during interview that the English-language translation of the novel had become so well-known internationally that the original novel is referred to more as Look Who’s Back than Er ist weider da, even by German readers. As such, not only did Bulloch’s role in creating the initial reader report for MacLehose Press function as a form of gatekeeping within the Anglophone literary field, but it can also be extrapolated outwards as contributing to the commissioning of further translations and adaptations into other languages and media.

  • 47 See Jamie Bulloch, “Not Only for Emergencies: what helps a German-language book to travel”, New Boo (...)
  • 48 Katharina Bielenberg, Jamie Bulloch and Judith Vonberg, “Katharina Bielenberg and Jamie Bulloch on (...)
  • 49 Lizzy Siddal and Jamie Bulloch, “Meet The Translator: Jamie Bulloch”, Lizzy’s Literary Life, access (...)
  • 50 John B. Thompson, op. cit., p. 16.

17While this mediation can inadvertently lead to the afterlife of a translated text in other languages and media, Bulloch has also contributed to the continued life of Look Who’s Back in English by discussing the novel since its release. For instance, in two articles published on the New Books in German website in 2017 and 2020, Bulloch used Look Who’s Back as a demonstrative case study of the success that German literature can have in translation and the challenges of translating humour47. Similarly, when conducting interviews pertaining to later translation work in 2016 and 2019, Bulloch has referred to Look Who’s Back as one of his “most successful translations”48 and has stated that it was “enormous fun to work on”49. By continuing to discuss Look Who’s Back and his work thereon in the seven years post publication, then, Bulloch’s translatorship extends to the role of an ambassador for the novel. This goes beyond the work of the publisher’s sales and marketing departments, who’s promotional and marketing strategies concluded following the release of the paperback edition in March 2015, thereby concluding Look Who’s Back journey along the “publishing value chain” 50. Consequently, Bulloch’s ambassadorship for Look Who’s Back in the years following the book’s release continues to provide a centrifugal force that draws readers towards the text long after the publisher’s resources and focus had moved on to subsequent books, thereby differentiating this ambassadorial aspect of Bulloch’s translatorship from the role of the publisher.

Conclusions

18By examining the various professional activities that comprise Jamie Bulloch’s translatorship in relation to the novel Look Who’s Back, this article sought to demonstrate the various roles translators can play in the global circulation of literature outside the act of translation. In the case of Look Who’s Back, the examination of documentary evidence and the collection of primary interview data has shed light on a variety of processes within the publishing cycle (understood throughout as Thompson’s “value chain”) that translator Bulloch either contributed to or supported. What is notable is that these activities, which include reading and assessing the novel prior to MacLehose’s acquisition of rights, marketing activities both online and at face-to-face events, and continued promotion of the translation and other versions of the same literary text in the years following publication, is that they span and transcend the entire publishing cycle. Consequently, Bulloch’s translatorship can here be understood as playing a role in the movement of Er ist wieder da into English that goes far beyond equating translatorship solely to the act of translation. While, of course, the limited scope of this isolated case study means that these findings must not be generalised too broadly, what this article demonstrates is the need to expand conceptualisations of the translator’s role within contemporary publishing processes to better assess the impact that individual translators can have on the movement of cultures and languages between literary systems.

19The impact of individual translators on the global circulation of literature is further demonstrated by the case study presented within this article. In reading and assessing Er ist wieder da prior to MacLehose’s acquisition of rights, Bulloch acted as a gatekeeper to the novel’s very existence in English who could either advise the publisher to grant the novel passage into English or deny it. Given that translation into English can then serve as a platform for the sale of rights into other languages and territories, this gives translators such as Bulloch a currently under-theorised level of power in determining which books can travel internationally. Furthermore, if we acknowledge Bulloch’s role as an interface between the original German novel and author on one side, and the receiving culture and target audience of the translation on the other, the role of the translator here extends to cultural mediator in such a way that Bulloch comes to serve as an ambassador for contemporary German literature and literary culture in English. This is particularly the case online, where Vermes’ absence from social media renders Bulloch the de facto ambassador and public face of the translated text. This ambassadorship then extended beyond both the publishing cycle for Look Who’s Back and the specific case of the novel, with Bulloch using the novel as an example of humorous or entertaining German-language literature. As such, Bulloch’s translatorship not only results in his ambassadorship for this specific text, but also for German-language literature and culture more broadly.

20What this case study has demonstrated, then, is that as we continue to investigate and challenge the systems and structures of power that underscore the global circulation of literature, the role of literary translators as gatekeepers, mediators or ambassadors between languages and cultures requires further scrutiny.

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COSTELLO, Isabel, “Review – Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes”, The Literary Sofa, accessed on 22 April 2021. URL: https://literarysofa.com/2014/04/04/book-review-look-whos-back-by-timur-vermes/

DAMROSCH, David, How to Read World Literature, Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

DARNTON, Robert, “What is the history of books?”, Daedalus, Volume 111, Number 3, 1982, p. 65-83.

DERRIDA Jacques, “Des Tours de Babel”, in GRAHAM, John (ed.), Difference in Translation, Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press, 1985, p. 209–248.

DONADIO, Rachel, “‘Look Who’s Back’: Germans Reflect on the Success of a Satire About Hitler”, The New York Times, accessed on 21 April 2021. URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/books/look-whos-back-germans-reflect-on-the-success-of-a-satire-about-hitler.html.

FLYNN, Peter, “Author and translator”, in GAMBIER, Yves and VAN DOORSLAER, Luc (eds), Handbook of Translation Studies, Volume 4, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, p. 12-19.

FREETH, Peter Jonathan, “‘Germany asks: is it okay to laugh at Hitler?’ Translating Humour and Germanness in the Paratexts of Er ist wieder da and Look Who’s Back”, Translation Spaces, Volume 10, Number 1, 2021, p. 115-137.

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Notes

1 Roland Barthes, Image, music, text, London, Fontana, 1977, p. 142-148.

2 Jacques Derrida, “Des Tours de Babel”, in John Graham (ed.), Difference in Translation, Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press, 1985, p. 209–248.

3 Walter Benjamin. “The Translator’s Task”, in Lawrence Venuti (ed), The Translation Studies Reader, third edition, London, Routledge, 2012[1923], p. 75–83.

4 André Lefevere, Translation, rewriting, and the manipulation of literary fame, London and New York, Routledge, 1992.

5 Lawrence Venuti, Contra Instrumentalism: A Translation Polemic, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 2019.

6 Christiane Nord, “Making the Source Text Grow: A plea against the idea of loss in translation”, in Claudia Buffagni, Beatrice Garzelli and Serenella Zanotti (eds), The Translator as Author: Perspectives on literary translation, Berlin, LIT Verlag, 2011, p. 21–29.

7 Anthony Pym, “The Translator as Non-author, and I am Sorry about that”, in Claudia Buffagni, Beatrice Garzelli and Serenella Zanotti (eds), The Translator as Author: Perspectives on literary translation, Berlin, LIT Verlag, 2011, p. 31-43.

8 Michelle Woods, “Introduction”, in Michelle Woods (ed), Authorizing Translation, London, Routledge, 2016, p. 1-11.

9 Emily Apter, “Afterlife of a Discipline”, Comparative Literature, 57.3, 2005, p. 201-206 and David Damrosch, How to Read World Literature, Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

10 See, for instance, Brian James Baer, “Translation Criticism in Newspaper Reviews: The Rise of Readability”, in Michelle Woods (ed), Authorizing Translation, London, Routledge, 2016, p. 12-31.

11 Peter Flynn, “Author and translator”, in Yves Gambier and Luc van Doorslaer (eds), Handbook of Translation Studies, Volume 4, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, p. 12-19.

12 Timur Vermes, Er ist wieder da, Cologne, Bastei Lubbe, 2012.

13 Timur Vermes, Look Who’s Back, London, MacLehose Press, 2014.

14 Robert Darnton, “What is the history of books?”, Daedalus, 111.3, 1982, p. 65-83.

15 P. Ray Murray and Claire Squires, “The digital publishing communications circuit”, Book 2.0., 3.1, 2013, p. 3-23.

16 John B. Thompson, Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge, Malden, Polity Press, 2010 p. 14.

17 Jeremy Munday, “Using primary sources to produce a microhistory of translation and translators: theoretical and methodological concerns”, The Translator, 20.1, 2014, p. 64-80.

18 Ibid., p. 64-80.

19 Ibid., p. 75.

20 Ibid., p. 68.

21 John B. Thompson, op. cit., p. 16.

22 Ibid., p. 19.

23 For an overview of the reception of Er ist wieder da in Germany see Peter J. Freeth, “‘Germany asks: is it okay to laugh at Hitler?’ Translating Humour and Germanness in the Paratexts of Er ist wieder da and Look Who’s Back”, Translation Spaces, 10.1, 2021, p. 115-137.

24 Emma Rault, “Collected wisdom: how to write a good reader’s report”, New Books in German, accessed on 21 April 2021, https://www.new-books-in-german.com/collected-wisdom-how-to-write-a-good-readers-report/.

25 Bielenberg noted during interview that both Bulloch and another reader were asked to give assessments on Er ist wieder da and its suitability for MacLehose’s catalogue prior to the novel’s acquisition.

26 See New Books in German, “Funding for English translations”, accessed 23 April 2021, https://www.new-books-in-german.com/translation-funding/

27 Rachel Donadio, “‘Look Who’s Back’: Germans Reflect on the Success of a Satire About Hitler”, The New York Times, accessed on 21 April 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/books/look-whos-back-germans-reflect-on-the-success-of-a-satire-about-hitler.html.

28 John B. Thompson, op. cit., p. 16.

29 John B. Thompson, op. cit., p. 20.

30 For an account of this event, see Isabel Costello, “Review – Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes”, The Literary Sofa, accessed on 22 April 2021, https://literarysofa.com/2014/04/04/book-review-look-whos-back-by-timur-vermes/

31 A photograph of this event was shared on the restaurant’s social media, see Hardy’s restaurant, “lit dinn 4…” tweet, @Hardys_W1 Twitter account, accessed on 22 April 2021, https://twitter.com/Hardys_W1/status/452089577239351296?s=20

32 Such as promoting Vermes’ appearance on BBC Radio 4, see Jamie Bulloch, “Listen to Timur Vermes…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed on 22 April 2021, https://twitter.com/jamiebulloch/status/647326500769923072?s=20

33 See Jamie Bulloch, “Where else have…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed on 22 April 2021, https://twitter.com/jamiebulloch/status/572840221211013121?s=20

34 See Jamie Bulloch, “Trying to keep up…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed on 22 April 2021, https://twitter.com/jamiebulloch/status/451702635989835776

35 Simone Murray, The Digital Literary Sphere: Reading, Writing, and Selling Books in the Internet Era, Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press, 2018, p. 29-30.

36 Twitter, “How to use TweetDeck”, Twitter help, accessed 22 April 2021, https://help.twitter.com/en/using-twitter/how-to-use-tweetdeck

37 Jonathan Pay, “What’s the name…” tweet, @jonathanpay Twitter account, accessed on 22 April 2021, https://twitter.com/jonathanpay/status/478827803605872641?s=20

38 Jamie Bulloch, “@jonathanpay Look Who’s Back” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed on 22 April 2021, https://twitter.com/jamiebulloch/status/478829542342414337?s=20

39 Jamie Bulloch, “@jonathanpay If that went on…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed on 22 April 2021, https://twitter.com/jamiebulloch/status/478834968500895744?s=20

40 Jonathan Pay, “@jonathanpay I suppose you’re right…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed on 22 April 2021, https://twitter.com/jonathanpay/status/478836371105517569?s=20

41 Jamie Bulloch, “@jonathanpay Hence my scouring…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed on 22 April 2021, https://twitter.com/jamiebulloch/status/478836508875845632?s=20

42 Jamie Bulloch, “Two-part dramatization…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed 22 April 2021, https://twitter.com/jamiebulloch/status/644176234310705152?s=20

43 Jamie Bulloch, “‘Look Who’s Back’ film…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed 22 April 2021, https://twitter.com/jamiebulloch/status/661835531999772673?s=20

44 Jamie Bulloch, “Special German edition…” tweet, @jamiebulloch Twitter account, accessed 22 April 2021, https://twitter.com/jamiebulloch/status/661670471830806528?s=20

45 Anja Sieg, “Strong start to German Christmas boosted by Hitler title”, The Bookerseller, accessed 23 April 2021, https://www.thebookseller.com/news/strong-start-german-christmas-boosted-hitler-title

46 Internal documents from MacLehose Press list rights sales to 35 territories as of 2 September 2013.

47 See Jamie Bulloch, “Not Only for Emergencies: what helps a German-language book to travel”, New Books in German, accessed 22 April 2021, https://www.new-books-in-german.com/not-only-for-emergencies-what-helps-a-german-language-book-to-travel/, and Jamie Bulloch and Deborah Langton, “Translating German Humour”, New Books in German, accessed 22 April 2021, https://www.new-books-in-german.com/translating-german-humour/

48 Katharina Bielenberg, Jamie Bulloch and Judith Vonberg, “Katharina Bielenberg and Jamie Bulloch on the past, present and future of German literature in the UK. Interviewed by Judith Vonberg”, European Literature Network, accessed 22 April 2021, https://www.eurolitnetwork.com/katharina-bielenberg-and-jamie-bulloch-on-the-past-present-and-future-of-german-literature-in-the-uk-interviewed-by-judith-vonberg/

49 Lizzy Siddal and Jamie Bulloch, “Meet The Translator: Jamie Bulloch”, Lizzy’s Literary Life, accessed 22 April 2021, https://lizzysiddal.wordpress.com/2019/02/21/meet-the-translator-jamie-bulloch/

50 John B. Thompson, op. cit., p. 16.

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Peter Jonathan Freeth, « Conceptualising the role of the translator in the global circulation of literature: The case of Look Who’s Back and Jamie Bulloch’s translatorship »TRANS- [En ligne], 27 | 2021, mis en ligne le 17 février 2022, consulté le 18 avril 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/trans/6564 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/trans.6564

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Peter Jonathan Freeth

University of Leeds

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